by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern
Note: When referring to “children,” it applies to anyone whose parents are still alive, even if they are adults with children of their own.
Knowing What is Needed
To properly fulfill the mitzvah of kibud av va’eim, a child must know how his parents want to be honored and revered. Children who decide for themselves how and when they will honor their parents are not keeping this mitzva properly, and are denying themselves its many benefits.
Since parents’ needs are totally individual, every child must learn what gives his parents
satisfaction and what distresses them.
The Chazon Ish would visit his mother daily just to sit and talk with her
The Chazon Ish would visit his mother daily for half an hour, just to sit and talk with her. One day he was so engrossed in his learning that he forgot to visit her. When his sister paid a visit that day, their mother innocently mentioned that she had not seen her son yet. After the daughter left, she stopped by the Chazon Ish’s home to tell him that their mother had inquired about him. He immediately realized that he had forgotten to visit his mother, and instantly grabbed his hat and coat and started running to her house. Observing his frenzy, his sister tried to calm him down, but the Chazon Ish ran so quickly that she could not catch up to him. He was not only running to do the mitzvah, he also realized that his mother was concerned about him and he wanted to alleviate her unease.
A child must learn not only to give his parents what they need, but also to anticipate when they will need something. As Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky said, part of being a ben Torah is recognizing another’s needs and providing them before he has to ask. This rule applies even more strongly to a child: he must anticipate his parents’ needs so that he can honor them before they need to ask.
A child needs to perceive that honoring his parents is a privilege and not a burden
Some common scenarios:
Opportunities, Not Burdens
A child needs to perceive that honoring his parents is a privilege and not a burden. Rav Avraham Pam said that it is common for a child to complain, “My mother always tells me to help her. She never tells my brother to do anything, and he never has to help in the house. The whole time it’s just me, and me again. It’s all on my shoulders.” But, writes Rav Pam, “How terribly mistaken is this child’s anger! If he only understood what a mitzva of kibud eim is being presented to him, not only would he hasten to do it, he would feel great joy at the opportunity. For besides the reward of longevity, this mitzva adorns those who keep it with good middos.”
Excerpted from the pamphlet “Honoring Parents – The Privilege and the Challenge,” which contains 25 different sub-topics on this subject plus a summary of the main halachos. To order a copy, please send a check of $7 made out to H. Morgenstern and mail to: Rabbi Morgenstern c/o Bina Roberts, 2625 Raleigh Ave. S. St. Louis Pk.MN, 55416 . You will also receive a free copy of my essay “Coping with Chutzpa”
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